In the midst of making a simple casual game as part of a personal jam, Ben Long and Fredrik Kaupang uncovered a great trick for streaming audio in Unity.
One of my favorite learning experiences is the game jam. I'm amazed how these events can teach you the entire spectrum of skills required in this industry. Where else can one get a feel for every aspect of game development in 48 hours?
The GGJ (Global Game Jam) should be mandatory for anyone interested in an industry career (including employees of larger studios). Aside from learning various disciplines, you get direct exposure to what a 'deadline' really is without the pressure of a multimillion dollar production. This becomes a time when creativity is the driving force, and good times are most certain to be had.
Recently, Fredrik Kaupang and I decided to dive right into development of a casual classic and complete it in one weekend. Although we missed the official GGJ event, it made sense to just run a marathon of our own. Since we live in different cities (Denver and Boston), everything happened entirely over Skype.
With the Chinese New Year right around the corner (and the 2013 Year of the Water Snake rapidly approaching), we had a waterproof plan: Make a classic Snake Game in Unity and localize it for both English and Chinese markets! The idea was certainly influenced by my talk at GDC China and the culture shock of seeing Shanghai for the first time, not to mention a lifelong interest in Chinese philosophy, food and kung-fu movies.
We proceeded to capitalize on Unity's greatest strength, and set out to deploy our work on every platform possible. This article was almost a portmortem, since Snake Game was ported to iOS, Android, Kindle, and the Chrome Store. Unfortunately, platforms and their owners aren't too fond of developers writing detailed articles about the submission process. Instead of going broad, we'll narrow focus: for this article, we will focus on the sonic side of things.
Snake Game is light on audio, so I was able to step out of my sonic comfort zone and work on art, HTML, and even get up to speed on platform requirements. I've been known to enjoy Photoshop/Illustrator, so it made sense to try my hand at game art. As an audio professional, it's a fun change to work with visuals, even though my skillset there is less flexible. Luckily, we built a sprite-based game where each component (snake body, head, tail and food) is a mere 44 x 44 pixels, and a gameplay background of 640x480 for web. These are our current sprites as of v1.2:
Sure, they are crude, but there is something therapeutic about making pixel art. Coloring the giant blocks puts you in a meditative state, but also challenges you to think of the outcome. The time flew by as the sushi details improved, until finally I thought, "Okay! This might work!" It was a microscopic victory, so I posted the PSD to Dropbox and had Fredrik try a few before implementation. After Skype's file sharing became a hurricane of misplaced assets, the cloud-based sharing helped to bring a bit of organization. The pixel art world is deep, and next time I will try free tools like this one, which is built for the task.
Once the initial web version ready, it was time to connect it with the ancient Chinese belief, which insists that people have a zodiac animal sign, and a specific element. Instead of making a Dragon game, which wouldn't be relevant for 11 years, we decided to make a re-skinnable snake game using the five elements of wood, metal, fire, earth, and water. We built the core game with flexibility in mind -- and the potential to create different gameplay elements for each Chinese element. The first step was to have a unique soundscape for each element game, so the water has an ocean soundscape, the earth has a distant lawnmower, etc.
Since we were making multiple versions of this game, it needed a place to live on the web, so I grabbed snakegamestation.com and dove right in. Our goal was to get the web version stable and use it for porting to the various web app and mobile app stores.
Each of the six games has their own looping music track, which is an ambient soundscape and what I call "wallpaper music." When creating such pieces of music, I always start with a general theme that then goes through several revisions. This is a subtractive approach, where layers and parts get axed until the piece is not interfering with gameplay too much.